Hopefully San Diego State didn't use all of their offense in their win over St. John's on Friday night. The Aztecs went 9 of 22 from beyond the arc and earned unexpected performances from Dwayne Polee and Matt Shrigley, that pair had all nine of those three-pointers.
Offense is the area that the Aztecs need to perform will if they are able to pull off an upset against Duke. The defense is there and they are a top-five unit in the country, and one thing San Diego Sate has that helps them is their size. Duke has a large front line in with Jahlil Okafor, Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson. The Aztecs counter with size of their own and should be able to counter what Duke brings inside.
San Diego State and Duke both played St. John's earlier this year and gave the Blue Devils trouble and they only beat the Red Storm by nine points. While St. John's did have Chris Obekpa he only scored four points in that game.
Multiple Duke players said that San Diego State reminds them of Virginia, which is a very good compliment since they are a No. 2 seed and one of the very few teams who can say they have a better defense than San Diego State. Virginia was able to hold Duke well below their scoring average, but still lost, 69-63.
The key to the game is blatantly obvious and it comes down to San Diego State scoring points and making their free throws. The Aztecs need J.J. O''Brien, Winston Shepard and Aqeel Quinn to have big games and then get another player like Polee to step up in the scoring.
San Diego State is prone to miss easy buckets and have cold dry spells on offense and they then rely on their defense to make up for that, but to upset Duke those spells can not last long or better yet not have any.
The athleticism that the Aztecs bring to the game is at the very worst on par with the ACC, and probably better than half of the league. Duke can be had when they are on defense. There are times where the baseline is not covered well and that can allow for some easy buckets by an attack and fast moving offense. The Aztecs can not just hold the ball with one or two players or shoot early in the shot clock. Rather they need to attack Duke with quick passes and try to get players to the rim by slipping by defenders for an easy basket.
Duke will want to force the pace and San Diego State needs to control themselves and not allow for this to turn into an uptempo game, some the Aztecs can fall victim to. The Blue Devils are a comparable team to Arizona, and the Aztecs nearly upset them in Maui back in November.
Getting back to the Duke side of things, they have four players who score in double figures in Okafor, Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. Okafor leads the way with 17 points and eight rebounds per game and will be the biggest threat for the Aztecs. Cook is right there and scores a shade under 16 points per game. What San Diego State can not afford is to let this set of players all equal their per game average. Okafor and Cook will get close to what they normally do, but hopefully less. The key is to hold the other scores to less than stellar games and that is something the Aztec defense can achieve.
It will all come down to if San Diego State can score points against Duke, because odds of this being a low scoring defensive battle are very slim.